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Published: Monday, 6/29/2009

Mayoral hopeful expands push on fire safety issue

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Konop Konop
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Buy This Photo

In an ongoing effort to warn residents of the potential of what he says is an inadequate water supply in the case of a major fire, mayoral candidate Ben Konop continued knocking on doors in the Old West End to talk about his plan to fix the problem.

Mr. Konop, a Lucas County commissioner, said he created a five-point "fire safety action plan" to fix what he said were faulty waterlines and faulty Toledo Fire Department procedures.

The issue arose after Barbie and Herman Harrison's home in the Westmoreland neighborhood erupted into flames and burned to the ground, blamed partially on the fire department's inability to get enough water from surrounding fire hydrants.

Specifically, 4-inch water mains in the area do not supply enough water, Mr. Konop said. The recommended main should be 8 inches, he added.

"This is a serious threat to our community's public safety," Mr.

Konop said while standing on a corner at Winthrop Street and Collingwood Boulevard. "I have come up with five steps to ensure something like the [Westmoreland] fire doesn't happen on my watch."

Included in the plan are steps to:

•Color-code all fire hydrants;

•Establish a liaison between the water and fire departments to coordinate issues such as hydrant flow testing;

•Place maps of hydrant locations and pressures on fire trucks and at stations and order the commanding officer on duty to prep firefighters before they arrive at a fire;

•Generate an annual fire department report that details the budget, spending, and number of runs;

• Require hydrant testing every five years.

Mr. Konop has since said that much of the problem developed during the watch of Michael Bell, former Toledo fire chief now running for mayor as an independent.

Mr. Bell once again countered Mr. Konop's contention that the fire chief is responsible for inspecting and maintaining fire hydrants.

He said yesterday that according to Toledo union contracts, the city's water department is responsible for the hydrants.

"Which demonstrates that Mr. Konop does not understand the city [where] he's running for mayor," Mr. Bell said, adding that Mr. Konop has yet to address the issue of water mains and fire hydrants within the county, of which he is a commissioner.

"If he's truly concerned and he's made it his flagship issue, maybe he should address his own house before he takes on someone else's," he said.

Mr. Konop said that the plan he proposed would not require the use of additional money, but instead included common-sense ways to address a safety problem.

After moving his press conference one block to avoid a heckler, Mr. Konop stopped along the way to tell residents along Winthrop that they live on a block supplied by a 4-inch main.

"There are thousands of homes within Toledo on streets like these that are in the same situation," he said. "Most residents may be aware of what happened to the Harrisons, but they may not know that it's the same situation on their block."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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